Will bim make architects more vulnerable to being sued?

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We’ve read some horror stories about architects’ liability regarding bim. Is this just scaremongering or will bim make architects more vulnerable to being sued?

Who owns the bim model?

Source: Angela Salt

Who owns the bim model?


Building information modelling shares project information between all those involved in designing a building, facilitating co-ordination of their input and making it easier to spot design problems. To this extent it could be seen as something that might reduce architects’ liability.

Patrick Perry

Patrick Perry, partner with London law firm Barlow Lyde and Gilbert

However, there are potential legal problems. These largely arise from the way bim combines information from those involved in the project into a single model, blurring the lines between who has done what.

The first issue surrounds who owns the bim model and the information within it. As designs from different consultants become part of the model, ownership of designs and information becomes much less clear. The employer may require the architect to retain overall design responsibility, but the architect may be unwilling.

Other liability worries include potential failure of the software through corruption of information or incorrect processing, and confidentiality of information.

Architects working on a bim project need to ensure contractual documentation is clear on the issues above, delineates their areas of responsibility and risk, and addresses any future use that can be made of the bim model. It is also important to inform professional indemnity insurers that the architect is undertaking this type of work.

In light of these issues, the insurance industry has had some concerns about the use of bim. However, in November the government announced it would trial a “no-fault” project insurance on a Ministry of Justice bim programme.

bd and Building Present BIM Show Live, a 2 day conference and exhibition taking place on the 9 and 10 May 2012 at the Business Design Centre, London. Visit www.bimshowlive.co.uk to register.


Readers' comments (2)

  • This is typical of the sort of issue that has not been fully addressed in the belatedly eager rush to adopt what most of us agree is a step-change in the way we collaborate in the design business. BIM, exciting as it may be, is a sophisticated gleaming yacht launched into the maelstrom of uneasy commercial and legal relationships that currently exists between consultants and clients.

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  • I think the disclaimer should actually read,'This column is so general it contains no useful information'.

    Out of touch as to what is going on in the software world to deal with these problems. Clearly ignorant of the government white paper which talks in a great deal more detail about many of these issues. Yes there is a legal working group behind the statement.

    The legal profession has got to realise that until they engage with what is going on they won't have a place at the table. QSs and PMs are just about starting to get their act together and engage - given three or four years and perhaps the lawyers will start to get there.

    Try harder.

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